Food Alliance Certification Program Relaunched

The Portland, Ore.-based non-profit Food Alliance, which suspended operations in February, has relaunched its third-party certification for farmers, ranchers, processors and distributors that implement sustainable agricultural and food handling practices.

All current Food Alliance certifications will continue under existing terms. Food Alliance is prepared to receive new certification applications, and will begin conducting new farm and facility inspections starting in October.

Food Alliance announced it was suspending operations in February citing funding challenges while the board of directors considered options for restructuring.

Following that announcement, Karl Kupers, a founder of Shepherd’s Grain flour company, started reaching out independently to other certification clients. “We’re all committed to third-party certification to support our brands. The question I asked is, ‘Is there another program that credibly covers both social and environmental issues the way that Food Alliance does?’ We concluded pretty quickly that there wasn’t.”

A group of clients, including representatives of Central Bean Co., Food Services of America, Shepherd’s Grain, Stahlbush Island Farms and Truitt Family Foods, met with Food Alliance board members and former staff to develop a new operating plan and budget.

“From a content perspective, the program was strong. Food Alliance’s certification standards are well respected,” says Tina Galloway, director of Agriculture Quality and Compliance at Stahlbush Island Farms. “But the business model was 60 percent dependent on outside grant support. That clearly wasn’t sustainable.”

Matthew Buck, who formerly served as assistant director for Food Alliance from 2004 to 2011, has been recruited to help restructure the organization and guide operations under the new fee-supported model. "We're going to be focusing on one core service – certification. We're also shifting more administrative responsibility to International Certification Services, the firm contracted to manage our inspections, and taking other steps to reduce internal costs and overhead.”

Food Alliance certification standards for farmers and ranchers include:

  • Safe and fair working conditions
  • Healthy and humane care for livestock
  • No hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics
  • No genetically modified crops or livestock
  • Reduction of pesticide use and toxicity
  • Conservation of soil and water resources
  • Protection of wildlife habitat
  • Continuous improvement of practices

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